Make the most of your fifth wall with these striking ideas
Why should your walls have all the fun? With searches for “statement ceilings” and “ceiling ideas” up 310 percent (according to Pinterest), it’s clear that people are branching out and using their ceilings as a blank canvas.
Too often overlooked, and just painted white, ceilings are a great “fifth wall” for out-there ideas that might be too bold for the walls. A mirrored, dark or brightly painted ceiling can feel less overbearing than if the design was taken across all four walls. It’s a clever way to add punch to a room, without overdoing it.
It can also be a great way of pulling a room together – painting the ceiling in a complementary shade to the wallpaper, say. But modern ceilings don’t stop at bold paints and tailored wallpapers.
The fabulous ceilings below demonstrate how you can make a truly striking statement with out-of-the-box design ideas – from tin tiles to all-over brass, and from glass roofs to all-over geometric plasterwork pattern. Whatever your style, aim high.
Designed by interior decorator, Sera Hersham-Loftus, this beautiful home is hard to categorise. Sophisticated bohemian comes close, but in truth it’s a lot more decadent, sexy and exotic than that. To keep the look creative rather than confused, Sera artfully employs colour, with a dark ceiling to ground the space. Exposed brick and reclaimed wooden flooring create a handsome, earthy backdrop, too.
Get the look Table, Alfie’s Antiques Market. Chairs, Nivaldo de Lima. Walls and ceiling painted in Off Black Estate Emulsion, Farrow & Ball.
Vintage tin ceiling tiles add a layer of decorative texture to the ceiling in this kitchen, which also has classic cabinetry from British Standard by Plain English.
Get the look The lights are Lee Broom’s Crystal Bulb and Pendants. The table is an eBay find and the banquette was made by Christophe Clement at The Ugly Room. The cabinetry, which houses the fridge and freezer, is by British Standard by Plain English. The tin ceiling tiles were shipped from Canada and then painted.
A clever rethink of the original plain ceilings formed part of this scheme. Floating wood panels were installed overhead to add depth to the space and also to reference the roofs of local buildings.
Get the look These are Andersen Quilt sofas by Rodolfo Dordoni for Minotti. The coffee table is by Ofist. Try Content by Conran for similar.
This project, undertaken by architect Clare Cousins, and her builder husband, Ben, includes the use of used durable, family-friendly materials throughout, such as concrete flooring, bricks and timber on the ceiling, to prevent it looking stark.
Get the look The rug is custom-made by Loom in Melbourne. Etsy does similar rugs. The leather sofa is a custom design by Temperature Design in Melbourne. Head to Cassina for a wraparound sofa like this. This is the Glo-Ball T table lamp by Jasper Morrison for Flos.
In this attic bedroom, designer Susi Bellamy’s own wallpapers envelop the walls and ceilings.
Get the look The walls and ceiling are covered in Khaki Fantasy wallpaper by Susi Bellamy. The vintage Sixties armchair is Italian.
One of the attractions of this property was its vast, unconverted loft space, which owner and interior designer, Tamara Honey of House of Honey has converted into a master bedroom, en suite bathroom and separate den.
Get the look The Napoli bath is by Victoria + Albert. The brassware is from Waterworks. The Danish chair was bought from Organic Modernism in Brooklyn. Check out the Midcentury Modern show at Dulwich College for similar. For a Sputnik light fitting like this one, try The Old Cinema.
The owners of this home wanted something with history, so when they saw all the beams (and an original blacksmith’s furnace in the kitchen), they knew this was it.
Get the look The kitchen units are a bespoke design by Danish manufacturer Garde Hvalsøe. The iron spotlights were also specially made for the house. The painting hanging over the sink is by the late Danish artist Kurt Trampedachs.
Blanket coverage with a single paint colour makes a bold design statement. Faux flowers both relieve and enhance the dark and moody colour schemes.
Get the look The flowers and vase are by Abigail Ahern. The vintage stool and Deco mirror are both from eBay.
When you're lucky enough to have period architectural features like these, you have to draw attention to them. The ‘wowzer’ lights draw the eye up to the ornate vaulted ceilings while super-long drapes emphasise the tall, elegant windows.
Get the look Dining table, George Nelson. Richard Schutlz chairs covered in Double Triangles fabric by Alexander Girard from Maharam. Bridget rug and Giant Lucite Hand: both Jonathan Adler. Globe lights, custom made. Curtains, Kravet. Giant foot by Gaetano Pesce.
A plain white bathroom is given a lift thanks to a ceiling shade that pops.
Get the look: The metalware is by Kohler. The stool was a local find. For similar, try Retrouvius. Earthborn’s Storybook is a good match for the ceiling shade.
You really can’t overstate the case for wood ceilings. Not only do they have a classic look and feel, but their solid nature makes them durable and ideal for blocking out sound between floors. Avoid a cave-like feel by adding jewel-toned fabrics, copper accents and luxe lighting.
Get the look: This is fashion designer Nanette Lepore’s house, designed by Jonathan Adler. For similar dark wood panels, price on request, try Armstrong Ceiling Solutions. The antique chandelier was found at Jonathan Burden – try Rainbow for similar vintage or custom pieces. This is the Bear Chair by Hans J Wegner for Johannes Hansen – try 1stdibs.com for Wegner classics. The leather pouffe is from Mecox Gardens – John Lewis sells a similar one, from £150.
Moody ceilings are, dare we say it, a little bit sexy. Inky hues create a more intimate environment and, much like the ever-expanding night sky, they recede. So, far from having a lowering effect, they can make the height of the room seem infinite. A dark hue can add emphasis to an unusual shape or detail, or just create a touch of drama. As dark shades absorb light, use a satinwood or eggshell paint finish to give the ceiling a wonderfully reflective surface. Bear in mind, though, that your ceiling has to have no imperfections. Balance the room by bringing some of the ceiling colour – we rate a luxe shade of navy – into the plane of the floor area, whether that be with wallpaper, furniture or soft furnishings.
Get the look:The ceiling is painted in Blue Black estate emulsion, £45 for 2.5L, by Farrow & Ball. This is the Calanque Corner sofa by Roche Bobois, from £10,710, which also sells similar cabinets, from £5,500 for a small unit.
Use cornicing to add definition and weight to a room, or to enhance the presence of a chandelier – it finishes off a space with flair. Retain or reinstate as many features as possible if you have a period property – damaged parts can be reproduced to match the original. If you’re not averse to a little tampering, you can create a cornice as opposed to restoring it. Wrap the cornice around the top of any cabinetry too, so it feels part of the room. Balance its bold look with neutral walls – classic white is the go-to for decorating purists.
Get the look This bathroom is kept classic with floral Victorian cornicing and a ceiling rose accented with grey paint. Little Greene’s Inox absolute matt emulsion, £59 for 2.5L, is similar. For a similar ceiling, try Plaster Ceiling Roses, price on request. This is the Spey bath, £3,570; and Classic bath mixer taps, £2,448, both by Drummonds.
With metallics on-trend, it was only a matter of time before they spread to ceilings. Beautifully understated, metallics reflect light (wonderfully enhanced by candlelight) and open up a space, so use them to give a dull room an interesting, unexpected touch. To pull off the look, apply a metallic finish through gilding, églomisé accents or wallpaper.
Get the look:This is Nautilus wallpaper, £78 a roll, by Cole & Son. Try de Gournay for a similar bespoke gold ceiling, from £124sq m. The bath surround is tiled in Via Arkadia tiles, £52sq m. The basin, £415, is from Cielo.
Don’t be nervous about using metallics – gold and silver are versatile. Plus, they work with a range of palettes, from vivid blues to moody greys. Whether used in a dining room or bathroom, a gilded ceiling will make it instantly more glamorous.
Get the look: The gold-leaf ceiling, £145sq m, was applied by Clare Lewis of Original Gilding. The Infamous Sex Etching in the Boudoir print, far right, is by Le Gun at Cob Gallery. The parquet floor is antique charred Japanese ash from Victorian Woodworks, price on request.
Glass ceilings are particularly popular for kitchens and dining areas, where the bulk of entertaining takes place. A glass roof will transform a space like no other material, simultaneously creating a sun-drenched area and lending your home a designer look. A whole new extension is required to create this look, so hire a professional who can also advise you on glass – we recommend self-cleaning glass from Pilkington to make life easier – and budget-in blinds if you have a south-facing room that will have a lot of sunlight.
Get the look: Try Velux for a glass ceiling like this, £360sq m. The sofa and ottoman are covered in Michael Szell’s Palma in Indigo from Christopher Farr Cloth. Find a similar side table at Graham and Green, £285.
Nothing says cool, modern edge quite like an industrial-look scheme. Proudly displaying materials that many try to conceal and adding a raw, unfinished look, if you’ve long been admiring urban lofts and barn conversions, then this is the ceiling for you. Its ‘rough and ready’ appearance may appear effortless, but don’t be fooled – it has to be artfully crafted. Paint exposed ceilings in a mid-grey shade and adorn with exposed filament bulb lights. A few pops of colour are all that’s needed to complete the scheme. Blues, reds and oranges work well with a grey backdrop to add depth and dimension.
Get the look:For a similar grey paint, try Urbane Grey intelligent eggshell, £59 for 2.5L, by Little Greene. The kitchen is by John Lewis of Hungerford, from £20,000. Try Peppermill Antiques for vintage islands, from £955.
For maximum payoff with minimum effort, printed wallpaper cannot be beaten. All the rage a couple of decades ago, it was waylaid as the trend for pared-back, Scandi-style spaces took hold, but with cool hotels like the Bloomsbury and Soho House working them into their rooms, we’re falling back in love with wallpaper. A space filled with colour and pattern makes an impact, but wallpapered ceilings have many other positive attributes.
Get the look:The ocelot-print wallpaper on the ceiling and lining the arch is Pantanal, £124 a roll, by Osborne & Little at John Lewis.
Papering a whole wall or several walls will cocoon a space and lend it an intimate feel. Wallpapering most rooms is a straightforward, if time-consuming process, but for a bathroom, hire a professional. Vinyl-backed wallpaper helps to avoid air bubbles and premature peeling. There are also splash-proof and antibacterial ranges that are highly durable for bathrooms too. A professional decorator will be able to advise on the appropriate materials for a high-spec finish.
Get the look: Find similar tropical leaf wallpaper at Murals Wallpaper, £36sq m, or try the Banana Leaf wall decoration, £127, by IXXI at Selfridges. This is Drummonds’ Brora high-level WC suite, £2,334.
A peaceful room doesn’t have to be plain. Concrete may be a neutral tone, but its natural blemishes give it fantastic movement and texture, bringing a warm feel to a living space. Enhance its worn-in surface with a clever lighting design. Spotlights, mounted wall lights or long-drop ceiling lights can create an ethereal atmosphere when teamed with concrete. This rougher surface also provides just the excuse to indulge in soft furnishings and accessories with incredible tactile textures.
Get the look: Try NLXL at John Lewis for similar concrete-effect wallpaper, £175 a roll. Maisons du Monde has a range of four-poster beds like this one, £494.50.
Mixed material accents like marble, brass and copper juxtapose with the cool surface of concrete and give a hit of warmth. Team all this with an appealing backdrop of neutrals and wood
for a characterful room.
Get the look:The dark concrete ceiling of this room has been balanced by the grey shades of the sofa and rug. The wall is painted in Marble; the block colour on the left is Yesterday’s Flower; and the block colour on the right is Caddie, all £46.50 each for 2.5L of pure flat emulsion, by Paint & Paper Library. The sofa is a custom design by George Smith, from £5,800. Find similar oak wood flooring by Ted Todd, £64.44sq m.
Big, bold colours are all that’s required to give a room some welly. While it may be standard procedure to brighten up a scheme with a white ceiling, vibrant shades also make a space appear more expansive. Block colours are fresh and modern for most living spaces, but there are some rooms where you can really take artistic licence. A children’s bedroom, for example, can pull off vibrant stripes on the ceiling to add an element of fun.
Get the look: Dayroom Yellow estate emulsion, £45 for 2.5L, by Farrow & Ball, is similar to this shade. Scion’s Dhurrie geometic print blinds, from £27.25, are like these. Ikea sells white rocking chairs, £30. Top them off with sheepskin throws, £395, by The Conran Shop.
When it comes to strong shades, though, there are rules. Warm colours tend to advance and cool hues recede. Cooler tones help to raise your ceiling height if it’s low, while rooms with high ceilings are made to feel more intimate with a bright, warm hue, such as red, orange or yellow.
Get the look:The ceiling is painted in Deep Space Blue; the wall in Flint; and the window frame in Marigold, all £42 each for 2.5L of absolute matt emulsion, by Little Greene. Try Catchpole & Rye for similar roll-top baths, from £4,000. The oil flower painting, £85, is from Vintage Flower Paintings.
The inky ceiling complements the wallpaper and works to create a sophisticated and cocooning feel.
Get the look: The ceiling and architrave are painted in Blue Blood pure flat emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5L; the skirting is painted in Lead I architects’ eggshell, £46.50 for 2.5L; and the walls are papered in Abbey Gardens Blue Blood, £175 a roll, all by Paint & Paper Library. The sofa, £6,200, is by Talisman Bespoke. This is the Diamonds Vintage Midnight Blue rug, price on request, by Knots Rugs. The Pluto lamp, £600, is by Porta Romana.
In this kitchen, plasterwork has been added in fun, 3D geometric shapes.
Get the look: Owners Jeremy, an architect, and Sarah Flavell, an interior designer, chose a panel moulded ceiling made with decorative plasterwork. Try Simply Mouldings for similar, price on request. The island was clad by Glassology, approx £9,500. The wall colour is Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath estate emulsion, £45 for 2.5L.